Asbestos was used for thousands of years before it was discovered that it causes serious health problems such as lung cancer. As a result, many governments around the world have banned its use. Many old buildings that contained asbestos have been either torn down or completely renovated. Banning the use of asbestos is a good decision that very few people have a problem with.
People do have problems with other bans such as those that stem from knee-jerk reactions. If a child climbs a tree and proceeds to fall out of it and sustains injuries, does that mean we should ban kids from climbing trees? Ban trees from public areas? Ban having kids? One hot topic that has been in the news for the past couple of years is head injuries in sports. Be it MMA or the NFL, there are those that are calling for an outright ban on these sports. It’s an easy solution but it’s not the most carefully thought out or forward-thinking solution.
Governments at every level have well-earned reputations for being lazy when it comes to finding innovative solutions to vexing problems. The trend these days is to arbitrarily ban things. Banning hair styles. Banning lawn darts. Banning saggy pant. Where does it end? Here are 15 things governments unbelievably banned.
15. Video Games – Greece
Online gambling is a contentious issue in many countries. In 2002, Greece was looking to crack down on illegal internet gambling and they came with a plan. The government placed a blanket ban on all video games. Not just internet poker and casino games but everything from GameBoys and mobile phone games to computer games like Solitaire and Minesweeper. Apparently, the government did not have the technology or know-how to tell whether you were playing Sim City, Madden 2001, or if you were involved in a game of internet poker or some other online casino game. Needless to say, this extreme measure created one heck of a kerfuffle and there were massive protests. The law was later deemed unconstitutional but it remains on the books although the law goes largely unenforced.
14. Cell Phones – Cuba
Cell phones aren’t devices that are used solely for voice communication. You can play games, access the internet, and organize your daily schedules. They also come in pretty handy when you want to snap a quick photo or record some video footage. One of the stranger laws that former Cuban leader Fidel Castro implemented was a ban on these popular devices. He explained that the ban was a necessary sacrifice in Cuba’s “battle of ideas” with the United States. Castro only allowed executives of foreign companies and communist party officials to legally own one. When Raul Castro came into power, one of the first things that he did was lift the nonsensical ban. Still, because most Cubans earn about $20 per month, cell phones are a bit of a luxury item in Cuba.
13. Chewing Gum – Singapore
A lot of people think nothing of popping a fresh piece of gum into their mouths. It’s refreshing, tasty, and effectively moistens a dry mouth. The problem is that people tend to discard their gum in all sorts of places that aren’t trash cans. As far back as 1983, Singaporean officials considered a ban on chewing gum as discarded gum was becoming a nuisance. It was on bus seats, plastered all over the sidewalks, and even being put over sensors on the MRTs which caused the doors to malfunction thus creating delays. The gum ban was implemented in 1992 and it is now illegal to buy or sell gum in Singapore with the exception of therapeutical gum like nicotine gum that is prescribed by a doctor. Offenders face fines and even imprisonment.
12. Baby Walkers – Canada
Who would have known that something like a baby walker posed such a danger? Well, it turns out that they actually do. Health Canada did a study in which they found that there were more than 1,900 injuries to babies aged 5 to 14 months of age between 1990 and 2002. These injuries were attributed to baby walkers. Falling down stairs, walkers flipping over, and walkers crashing into hot stoves and heaters were just some examples of the many causes of injuries. It is now illegal to manufacture, import, buy or sell baby walkers in Canada. Offenders caught trying to bring them across the border into Canada might not be treated like drug smugglers but they still face hefty fines and imprisonment. There is a possibility that this ban will also be put in place in the United States.
11. Kinder Eggs – United States
These chocolate treats that come with a toy inside them have been popular all over the world for decades, but you won’t find them in stores in the United States. There has actually been a law in place since 1938 that bans the practice of putting toys in confections. There are more than a few stories of people getting caught trying to enter the United States with Kinder Eggs and some of the consequences have been pretty severe. U.S Customs actually confiscated approximately 30,000 Kinder Eggs in 2015 alone. American fans of Kinder Eggs can rejoice as they will legally be available for purchase in 2018 after alterations in the way they are packaged were made. According to Wikipedia, Kinder Eggs caused 3 deaths over the past 40 years despite the small toy surprises being considered such a dangerous choking hazard.
10. Claire Danes – Manila, Philippines
Actress Claire Danes has been in movies and on television for several years. She was in Manila filming the movie Breakdown Palace in 1998, and it looks like she wasn’t too impressed by the capital of the Philippines. After the filming was complete, Danes went back to the United States and did a couple of interviews in which she voiced her displeasure with the way Manila smelled, the lack of a sewage system, and the general appearance of the citizens. She also complained about the rats and referred to the city as “ghastly and weird”. City council took offense to her comments and passed a motion to bar her from entering the city and banning any movie that she appeared in. She offered an apology but it was not considered satisfactory.
9. Blue Jeans – North Korea
North Korea’s Kim Jung-un is widely seen as a crackpot dictator whose actions and policies often leave us scratching our heads. He definitely doesn’t want Western culture influencing his minions. He has enacted bizarre new laws and strictly enforced the old ones to ensure that North Koreans live in his deluded reality. He wants all North Korean males to have the same hair style as he does and he wants all the women to have the same bob as his wife. While some people might support his ban on face piercings, most will shake their heads at his ban on blue jeans. We’ve all seen it before. It starts with a few disobedient citizens growing their hair past the 2 cm limit, then they start wearing blue jeans, then the collapse of society occurs. Not on Kim Jung-un’s watch!!
8. Jogging – Burundi
If you happen to be a health nut living in Burundi, you need to know that going out for your daily jog isn’t quite as simple as putting on your running shoes and heading out the door. Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza declared that it is illegal to jog in groups. It seems that when joggers get together they tend to plot coups and engage in other rebellious activities. The only way that you can legally jog is by joining an authorized jogging club which requires you to register with the government and limits you to one of 9 approved venues. Naturally, after you finish your run you could be subject to intense interrogation during which you will be asked questions like “How fast did you run the mile?” or “When does the revolution start?”
7. Lip Syncing – Turkmenistan
Don’t expect a Super Bowl halftime show or an Ashlee Simpson concert to ever be held in Turkmenistan anytime soon. After banning opera and ballet, as well as trying to rid the country of long hair and gold teeth, President Saparmurat Niyazov decided to take aim at another threat to society when he outlawed lip synching. He felt that lip syncing has “a negative effect” on the art of music and that it kills talent. You can’t even lip sync “Unchained Melody” to your new bride at your own private wedding. What else could one expect from a guy that claimed that he was sent by God to lead his country into a “Golden Age”? It’s been over 10 since this law came into effect and it’s still unclear as to how Turkmen culture has been affected by lip syncing.
6. Dancing – Japan
Immediately following WWII, Japan wasn’t exactly the happiest place on Earth and residents were dealt another devastating blow in 1948 when the government decided to ban dancing. It seemed that dance halls fast became hotspots for prostitution after the war and authorities needed to do something. The rule was that you could dance if the venue had a permit but all bumping and grinding needed to cease by midnight. During the latter part of the 20th century, police began turning a blind eye but a series of nightclub-related scandals resulted in a crackdown. Public pressure along with Japan playing host to the 2020 Summer Olympics are contributing factors in Japan’s recent announcement that they are lifting the ban. Perhaps Sweden could take a cue from this decision and lift their dance ban?
5. Scrabble – Romania
Ex-Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, would not be described by too many as being a level-headed guy and he apparently didn’t care too much for board games either. He kept Romanians under a tight grip for well over 20 years until the late 80’s when his reign of terror came to a bloody end. You can only push people so far and the glorious leader’s idiotic decision to ban the classic game Scrabble may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Referring to the game as “overly intellectual” and, get this, “subversive evil”, Ceausescu banned the game. Intellectuals and evil subversives all over Romania were outraged. He and his wife were apprehended, tried in court, and sentenced to death by being pelted with Scrabble tiles and those hard wooden tile racks. Or maybe it was machine guns.
4. Dying – Svalbard Norway
It gets a little nippy in Svalbard. In fact, it gets so cold that burying a body is a near-impossible task. The ground is permanently frozen and even if you were to dig a hole, your body would remain frozen and not decompose. On top of that, buried corpses get forced back up to the surface making it look like some kind of an apocalyptic zombie attack. Also, consider that if that person died of a disease it would be preserved too and possibly spread around. These are the reasons why there is a ban on dying in Svalbard. People that are close to death are relocated so that they can die and be buried somewhere else. It is possible to have cremated remains buried in Svalbard but that requires special permission from the government.
3. Changing a Light Bulb – Victoria, Australia
Changing a light bulb is just one of those things that millions of people do several times each year. It’s one of the easiest household tasks to complete and nearly impossible to screw up unless you use your tongue to see if there is power in the socket. It’s unclear why such a silly law was introduced but the Australian state of Victoria actually banned people from changing light bulbs unless they were licensed electricians. Imagine having to pay for an electrician to make a house call to change a light bulb? Thankfully, this nonsensical law was changed in 1999 and Victorians may now do it themselves. They also generously provided a specific clause which allows for you to legally remove a plug from an electrical outlet. It’s good to know that the Victorian government has so much faith in their citizens.
2. Running out of Gas on the Autobahn – Germany
The Autobahn is intimidating for both experienced and inexperienced drivers to navigate. Cars whipping by at high speeds force you to keep your head on a swivel. The last thing that you want to have to do is to brake suddenly or swerve because of an obstruction. It is for this reason that running out of gas on the Autobahn has been banned. A car parked on the side of that highway is a hazard. The catch-22 is that it’s also illegal to walk along the Autobahn which means that if you run out of gas you are hooped. Your best hope is to call their version of AAA and hope they arrive before the police do. You might be lucky enough to overpay for a bit of gas as opposed to being forced to pay fines.
1. Sparrows – China
Back in the late 1950’s, Mao Zedong figured that freeloading sparrows needed to be eradicated because they were eating too much grain without paying for it. He ordered citizens to kill all the pesky birds along with flies, mosquitoes, and rats as part of his “Four Pests Campaign”. There was one thing that Mao and his wise men didn’t take into consideration which was the fact that sparrows ate other insects. Without sparrows, the insect population, locusts in particular, exploded and decimated crops. This led to starvation on a massive scale. The Chinese government pegged the number of starvation-related fatalities at 15 million but others say the number is several times higher. Realizing the importance of sparrows and not wanting to change the name of his campaign, Mao replaced sparrows with bed bugs in 1960.
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